Ecclesiastical Order and Discipline of the Reformed Church of Quebec
Revised at the Synod of the Reformed Church of Quebec, September 18, 1993.
We recognize that the Lord Jesus Christ, Head of the Church, has placed us with our children in a community having one vision, a single faith and a single hope. This community, which is considered to be only a part of the universal Church of Jesus Christ, we call:
The Reformed Church of Quebec
We recognize the supreme authority or the Holy Scriptures, under which we submit. We accept, along with the universal Church, the ecumenical confessions of faith such as the Apostles Creed, the Nicean Creed, and the Athanasian Creed. Equally we accept the Reformed confessions of faith such as the Confession de la Rochelle, the Belgic Confession, and the Canons of Dordt. More precisely, the Heidelberg Catechism and the Westminster Confession constitute the official expression of our beliefs which all office bearers (elder, minister of the Word, deacon) must adhere to.
In submission to the rule of Scripture: "Everything should be done in a fitting and orderly way" (1 Cor. 14: 40) we clearly articulate the Biblical principles for this Church and we establish the following ecclesiastical order and discipline:
A. The Biblical principles of the direction of the Reformed Church of Quebec
The Church of Jesus Christ is presented to us in the Bible as the people of the Kingdom, which shows at least three things: (1) a King, Jesus Christ, (2) his subjects, the believers and their children, and (3) some laws, which are the Holy Scriptures. By reading the New Testament we see that Jesus Christ has established a structure for his Church which is distinguished by a foundation (Matt. 16: 13-20), rules of order and of discipline (Matt. 18: 15-20) and a general framework for the training of disciples, the administration of the sacraments and for teaching (Matt. 28: 18-20).
It is evident that Jesus does not want a Church without structure and without direction, and, though we do not find a large amount of detail on this subject in the New Testament, we can still distinguish the general guiding principles:
I. Only Jesus Christ is the Head of the Church (a), and the Bible is the sole infallible and definitive rule for the life of the Church.
(a) Eph. 1:18-23; 5:23; Col. 1:15-18.
(b) Is. 8:19,20; 2 Tim. 3:16; 2 Peter 1:20, 21.
II. The Church of Jesus Christ is composed of all those who, with their children, are called by him and who answer this call. (c)
(c) Deut. 4:9-14; Acts 2:38, 39; Heb. 12:22-29.
III. Jesus Christ gathers together his own at the local (d) and regional levels (e), and he directs his Church at these levels to the means of the elders and ministers of the Word (f). The council of elders has the right to pronounce judgement in the name of the Church of Jesus Christ (g).
(d) Rom. 16:5; 1 Cor. 16: 19; 2 Cor. 12: 13.
(e) Acts 8: 1; 11: 22-26; 13: 1; Gal. 1: 13.
(f) Acts 14: 23; 20: 17-31; Eph. 4: 11-15; 1 Tim. 3: 1-7; Titus 1: 5-9.
(g) Acts 15; 16: 4; Matt. 18: 15-17.
IV. The Church recognizes the ministry of the deacons as necessary. (h)
(h) Acts 6:1-6; Rom. 16:1, 2; Phil. 1: 1; 1 Tim. 3:8-10.
B. The Organization of the Reformed Church of Quebec
The ecclesiastical order and discipline of the Reformed Church of Quebec are formulated to most effectively serve God in obedience to his will. Their formulation aims to assure a great degree of liberty to the congregations and to their members, liberty which rests on the acceptance of a common discipline. Therefore this formulation is subject to modification in the future if the situation of the Reformed Church of Quebec requires it and so that as much as possible it will be in accordance with the Holy Scriptures. It is there to unite the members and the office bearers of the Reformed Church of Quebec and help them to faithfully engage in the vocation to which God has called them. As a consequence, each member is called to take his place in the Reformed Church of Quebec and to discern with the Church where he must work within the body of Christ.
1.1 The Church is the body of Jesus Christ (a), who is the supreme Head of it. This Church is made up of all the faithful, living and dead, who are "born of water and the Spirit" according to the Word of God (b). It is a people of kings, of priests, and of prophets (c). In space and time, the Church takes a visible form (d).
(a) Rom. 12: 5; 1 Cor. 12: 27; Eph. 1:23, 5:30.
(b) John 3:5.
(c) Ex. 19:5,6; Joel 2:28, 29 (or 3:1,2); Titus 2:14; I Peter 2:9.
(d) 1 Cor. 1:2; 1 Thess. 1:1; 2 Thess. 1:1; Revelation 1:4, 1.
1.2 This visible Church is an assembly where, according to the ordinance of Jesus Christ, the Word of God is faithfully proclaimed and heard, as well as taught and obeyed, where the sacraments of the Lord are legitimately administered and received and where Biblical discipline is maintained and respected. This visible Church shares the human condition. Therefore it must submit without ceasing to the Word of God, so that it will be able to reform and renew itself, and each member is called to be holy as the Lord is holy. (e)
(e) 1 Peter 1:15, 16.
1.3 The Holy Spirit allows the Church to accomplish its calling, dispensing to it the necessary gifts for evangelization, proclamation, teaching, worship, praise, pastoral work, hospitality, help to the needy. (f) All the believers share in this universal priesthood.
(f) Rom. 12:1-8; 1 Cor. 12;1 Peter 4:9-11.
(g) Rom. 12:1; Heb. 12:28; 1 Peter 2:4-9; Revelation 1:6; 5:10.
1.4 To facilitate its mission, the visible Church is organized according to the needs of the time and of the place. The Reformed Church of Quebec, denoting the regional church, is a part of the visible Church which is spread out over and limited to the mission field constituted by the francophone communities of North America. This regional Church is made up of parishes and established parishes, along with elders.
1.5 All Churches which share the Biblical principles of the Reformed Church of Quebec, accept its confessions of faith as well as its ecclesiastical order and discipline, without taking into account historical, social, cultural, or administrative differences, may become members of the Reformed Church of Quebec.
1.6 In the case where a Church becomes a member of the Reformed Church of Quebec, the members of this Church must make profession of faith, and the office bearers of this church must make profession of faith and sign to their agreement with the confessions of faith and the ecclesiastical order and discipline of the Reformed Church of Quebec.
The Offices of the Church
2.1 To edify the church and to prepare it for its vocation, the Lord, by means of the apostles has instituted the office bearers, which differ according to their ministry, responsibility and authority (a). These offices are exercised at the level of the parish and of the regional church. (b)
(a) Acts 6:2, 3; 14:23; 20:28; Eph. 4:11-12; 1 Peter 5:1-4.
(b) Acts 6:2-4; 15:6, 7; Phil. 1:1; 1 Tim. 3:1-13; Titus 1:7.
2.2 The Office of Elder
2.2.1 The primary function of elders is to guide the Church according to Scripture. To this end, the elders are part of the local council, which is responsible for the preaching, the administration of the sacraments, teaching, leadership, administration, pastoral help, discipline, and education (c).
(c) Acts 20:28; 1 Tim. 3:2-5; 5:17; Titus 1:7-9; Heb. 13:17; 1 Peter 5:1-3.
2.2.2 Election of elders precedes their ordination and happens in the parish which calls them. The elders are trained in the context of their parish according to a program set out by the synod. It is at the time of their first nomination in a parish, after an examination and approbation by synod, that one proceeds to their ordination in the presence of two delegates of synod (d). The latter requires 75% majority vote of parish members.
(d) Acts 14:23; 1 Tim 3:1; Titus 1:5-9; Heb. 13:17; 1 Peter 5:2-4.
2.2.3 To free an elder who has reached the age of retirement, is sick, overworked, or who is moving, the local council may grant him appropriate release.
2.2.4 The office of elder is assigned to persons of the male sex (e), who must show evidence of their competence according to Biblical criteria as mentioned in Acts 20:28; 1 Tim. 3:1-7; 2 Tim. 3: 17; Titus 1: 5-9; Heb. 13:17; 1 Peter 5:1-4.
(e) 1 Tim. 2:12; 3:2; Titus 1:5-7.
2.2.5 The elders are responsible to the local council for their manner of living, their doctrine, and their ministry. All disputes must be ruled on by the local council, but if a disagreement persists, the parties in the case may appeal to the synod to resolve the question. If the ministry itself of the elder is put into question, the problem must be submitted directly to the synod (f).
(f) Rom. 12:3-5; 1 Cor. 12:12; Eph. 5:21; Phil. 2:3; 1 Tim. 5:19; 1 Peter 5:5.
2.3 The Office of Minister of the Word
2.3.1 The foundation and the mission of the Church imply the exercise of the particular ministry in which men devote themselves to the ministry of the Word and to that of prayer. (g)
(g) Acts 6:4; 13:1,2: 1 Cor. 12:27, 28; Eph. 2:20; 4:11.
2.3.2 The minister of the Word is ordained in order to preach the Word of God and to administer the sacraments. He sits on the local council.
2.3.3 The exercise of the ministries of the Word and the administration of the sacraments requires a spiritual, personal and professional training, which is the responsibility of synod (h).
(h) Acts. 20:20; 20:27; 2 Tim. 2:1, 2; 2:24-26.
2.3.4 The election of ministers of the Word precedes their ordination and takes place in established parishes or in mission parishes which call them. It is at the moment of their first nomination in an established parish or in a mission parish, after the examination and approbation of synod, that one proceeds to their ordination in the presence of two delegates from synod (i). The latter requires 75% majority vote of parish members.
(i) Acts 13:1-3; 1 Tim 3:1; 4:14; 5:22; 2 Tim 1:6.
2.3.5 To free a minister of the Word who has reached the age of retirement, is sick or overworked, the local council and the synod may provide appropriate relief.
2.3.6 The office of minister of the Word is assigned to persons of the male sex (j), who must show evidence of their competence according to Biblical criteria as are mentioned in Eph. 4:11-12; 2 Tim. 3:17; Titus 1:5-9; Heb. 13:17;1 Peter 5:1-4.
(j) 1 Tim. 2:12; 3:2; Titus 1:5-7.
2.3.7 The ministers of the Word are responsible to the local council for their manner of life, their doctrine, and their ministry when they serve in an established parish. They are directly responsible to synod when they serve in a mission parish. In principle, all disputes must be solved at the level of the local council, but if a disagreement persists, the parties to the case may appeal to the synod to resolve the question. If the ministry itself of the minister of the Word is put into question, the problem must be submitted directly to synod. (k)
(k) Rom. 12:3-5; 1 Cor. 12:12; Eph. 5:21; Phil. 2:3; 1 Tim. 5:19; 1 Peter 5:5.
2.3.8 When a minister of the Word is without a call to a local church, he retains his status as a pastor of the Reformed Church of Quebec and his name must be placed on a list of pastors eligible for a call. He does not have to be re-examined; he is recognized as a candidate available for a call. He is responsible before the Synod for his conduct, his doctrine and his ministry.
2.3.9 A candidate for the pastorate must be examined and approved by the Synod before he will receive the authority to preach in our parishes, while he pursues and completes his pastoral formation.
2.4 The Office of Deacon
2.4.1 The primary function of deacons is to serve the Church and the world in the name of the Lord, according to Scripture (1). To this end, the council of deacons must exercise the ministries of help to members in need, of the distribution of the gifts of money or gifts in kind, and the training of members concerning their material goods. By the exercise of their ministry, the love of Christ becomes visible and real, in particular to the needy and to those who suffer want, physically, emotionally, and spiritually. The deacons serve the Church by their commitment and example. They are a model which stimulates each member to faithfully engage in his particular service. They must show evidence of wisdom, of self sacrifice, and of discretion.
(1) Acts 6:2,3; Rom. 12:7; 16:1,2.
2.4.2 The election of deacons precedes their ordination and takes place in the parish which calls them (m). It is at the time of their first nomination in a parish, after an examination and approbation by the local council, that one proceeds to their ordination in the presence of two delegates of synod.
(m) Acts 6: 1-6; 1 Tim. 3: 10.
2.4.3 The parish can call to the office of deacon all members who show evidence of their competence according to the Biblical criteria mentioned in Acts 6: 3; Rom. 16:1,2; 1 Tim. 3:8-13.
2.4.4 The deacons are responsible before the local council for their manner of life, their doctrine and their ministry. All disputes should be solved at the level of the local council, but if a disagreement persists the parties in the case may appeal to the synod to solve the question. If the ministry itself of the deacon is called into question, the problem must be submitted directly to the synod. (n)
(n) Rom. 12:3-5; 1 Cor. 12:12; Eph. 5:21; Phil. 2:3; 1 Peter 5:5.
2.4.5 The council of deacons will be set up according to the needs of the parish. (o)
(o) Acts 6:1-5.
2.4.6 The deacons, according to their call and their availability, can participate in the work of the committees of synod.
The Ministries of the Word
3.1 Historically, ministers of the Word were apostles and prophets and today they are evangelists and pastors.
3.2 The Evangelist (a)
(a) Acts 21:8; Eph. 4:11; 1 Tim. 4:6; 2 Tim. 1:13,14; 2:15; 4:1 ff.
3.2.1 The ministry of evangelist is similar to that of apostle as far as the planting of churches goes. The synod must undertake to supply him an adequate training.
3.2.2 The evangelist is minister of the Word in the mission parish to which he is called. The Spiritual supervision of his ministry is given to the synod who will name a provisional local council for this purpose.
3.2.3 His primary task is to form and organize new parishes. Consequently, he must be able to evangelize in order to win non-believers for Jesus Christ, to preach and to teach the Word, to lead public worship services, to administer the sacraments, to provide a basic training to the children and adults, to exercise discipline and to manage the affairs of the newly formed parish.
3.2.4 The election of evangelists precedes their ordination and takes place in the mission parish which calls them. It is at the time of their first nomination in a mission parish, after examination and approbation by synod, that one proceeds to their ordination in the presence of two delegates of synod.
3.3 The Pastor (b)
(b)Jer. 3:15; 23:4; Acts 20:28; Eph. 4:11; Heb. 13:17.
3.3.1 The ministry of the pastor consists primarily of edifying the established parish.
3.3.2 The pastor acts as minister of the Word in collaboration with the elders. The spiritual supervision of his ministry and his remuneration are the responsibility of the local council in agreement with the synod. The synod is responsible for his training.
3.3.3 His task is mainly to ensure the preaching and teaching of the Word, the public worship services, the administration of the sacraments, and pastoral aid.
3.3.4 The election of pastors precedes their ordination and takes place in the established parish which calls them. It is at the time of their first nomination in a parish, after the examination and approbation of synod, that one proceeds to their ordination in the presence of two delegates of synod.
The Councils of the Church
4.1 The councils of the Church are the local councils and the synod. (a)
(a) Acts 14:23; 15:6, 22; 20:17ff.
4.2 The Local Council (b)
(b) Deut. 6; Ps. 78:1-4; Matt. 16:18; 18:15-18; Acts 14:23; 20:28; 1 Tim. 4:6,7; 5:17; 2 Tim. 2:2; 1 Peter 5:1-5.
4.2.1 The local council is made up of all the elders and ministers of the Word in the established parish. It meets periodically to take care of the affairs of the parish.
4.2.2 It must normally be made up of at least two elders and the pastor. Nevertheless, a minimum of two elders or one pastor and an elder is acceptable in cases judged exceptional by the synod.
4.2.3 It has the responsibility for the public worship service in agreement with the principles of the synod. It must encourage evangelization, teaching, prayer, and fraternal communion.
4.2.4 Catechetical instruction of the youth and of adults is the responsibility of the local council. It must conform to the teaching of Scripture, as formulated in the confessions of faith of the Reformed Church of Quebec.
4.2.5 Pastoral aid is the ministry of the whole Church. However pastoral visits must be made part of the work of the elders, and ministers of the Word under the direction of the local council. The purpose of these visits is to watch over the spiritual growth of the members and particularly their faith and their conduct, to encourage relations among the members and to maintain the unity and fraternal communion in the Church.
4.2.6 The local council must oversee the on going training of the pastor, the elders, the deacons and other church workers, and help them to lead an irreproachable life and keep pure doctrine.
4.2.7 The parish is the sole owner of its buildings and furniture.
4.2.8 At least once per year, the local council must hold a general meeting of all the members in order to examine the affairs of the parish.
4.2.9 The local council can permit a member to attend a meeting of council. The meetings are normally held in closed session.
4.2.10 Each member has the right to be heard by the local council.
4.3 The Synod (c)
(c) Acts 13:2,3; 1 Tim. 3:10; 5:19-22.
4.3.1 The synod is a regional assembly of elders and ministers of the Word delegated by their established and mission parishes. The local council must delegate its pastor and an elder, or two elders in the absence or incapacity of the pastor. The mission parish is represented by its evangelist.
4.3.2 The synod must meet periodically to deal with the business of the Reformed Church of Quebec and questions brought forward by local councils. In both cases, all questions must be communicated to the local councils before being debated by the synod.
4.3.3 All modifications made to the confession of faith of the Reformed Church of Quebec must be accepted by all delegates of the member parishes. All modifications made to the Ecclesiastical Order and Discipline of the Reformed Church of Quebec must be accepted by two thirds of the delegates of the member parishes. For all other current affairs, the majority of delegates present at a meeting of the synod is required.
4.3.4 The synod must watch that its decisions are effectively put into practice by the parishes in matters concerning the doctrine, mission, worship service, ecclesiastical order and discipline of the church.
4.3.5 Each year the local councils must make a report to synod on the progress of their mission and the community life of their parish.
4.3.6 The synod is responsible for the training of pastors, evangelists, and elders.
4.3.7 It supervises the ordination of pastors, evangelists and elders, and is represented at the ordination of deacons. (d)
(d) Acts 13:2,3; 1 Tim. 3:10; 5:1,19,22.
4.3.8 The quorum of synod is 75 percent of the delegated members.
The Members of the Church
Gen. 17:7; 28:14; Deut. 6; Ps. 78:1-8; Acts 2:39; 6:5; 11:4; 15:4,22; 16:15,33; 19:1-7; 21:5; Rom. 12:4,5; 16:1-23; 1 Cor. 1:1017; 3:16; 10:23-31; 16:13-20; 2 Cor. 8-9; Gal. 3:13,14,29; 5:136:10; Eph. 3; 4:17-6:20; Phil. 2:12-18; Col. 3:1-17; 1 Tim.; 2 Tim.; Titus; 1 Peter 4:7-11.
5.1 Professing members are those believing in Christ who, having received baptism, have publicly professed their faith before the elders and the ministers of the Word and before the Church, and who are, as a consequence, accepted to share fully in the community of the Church. The children of professing members receive baptism because they share the covenant of God. They are considered to be non-professing members of the Church.
5.2 To prepare children to enter into the full communion of the Church by profession of their faith, the local council must be watchful to give them an adequate Biblical and doctrinal instruction, and it must provide for their spiritual needs.
5.3 If the non-professing members decide not to publicly profess their faith and to not enter into the full communion of the Church, the local council must delete their names from the list of members of the Church.
5.4 The professing members of the Church submit to the spiritual authority of the elders and ministers of the Word. They contribute to the well being of the Church by the giving of their time and money and the exercise of their talents. They faithfully attend the meetings of the members of the Church and participate regularly in the Holy Supper. They live a holy life, show evidence of the grace of God and they raise their children in the love and respect of the Lord. They instruct themselves in the Word of God and they participate in the mission of the Church so that others are won for Christ so that the kingdom of the Lord is furthered. They elect their elders, ministers of the Word and deacons.
5.5 At least once per year, the local council must hold a general meeting of the members to discuss and regulate the affairs of the parish. The annual budget must be determined at the time of this meeting. If the local council asks the members to vote, it does not have the right to annul the results of the vote.
5.6 The general assembly of the parish must be announced three weeks prior to the date set and at least two times. The general assembly must be presided over by an elder or minister of the Word designated by the local council. The decisions of the general assembly must be recorded in the minutes of the next meeting of the local council.
Spiritual Discipline and Church Censure
Matt. 16:18; 18:15-18; Luke 19:10; Rom. 12:9,10; 15:5-7; 16:17,18; 1 Cor. 5; 12:12-27; 2 Cor. 2:5-11; Gal. 6:1-5; Eph. 4:2,25,26,32: 5:2; 1 Tim. 5:1-2; Titus 1: 9,13; 2:15; 3:8,10,11; Heb. 13:17; James 5:16,19,20
6.1 Ecclesiastical Censure of Members
6.1.1 The totality of the members of the Church is the body of Christ and each one of them is a part of this body. If one part of the body suffers, all the others suffer with it. The health and well being of the body and its members is therefore the responsibility of the body and its members.
6.1.2 The members of the Church have been baptized in order to form a single body by the Holy Spirit of God. The Holy Spirit teaches the members of the body and guides them to love one another, to help one another and to carry one another's burdens to thereby obey the law of Christ.
6.1.3 The purpose of all spiritual discipline in the Church is to preserve and reinforce unity and discipline, and to promote life in obedience to the law of God. Each member of the Church is called to live according to this spiritual discipline and to help others to live like this, so that harmony is maintained in the family of God according to his Word.
6.1.4 This discipline can happen under the form of ecclesiastical censure when the spiritual life of a member and the unity of the Church are threatened, when the truth of the Word of God is attacked and so the honor of God is injured.
6.1.5 According to the Word of God, there are three steps in ecclesiastical censure: mutual censure, official censure, and excommunication from the Church of God.
6.1.6 Mutual censure is made up of two steps, these being individual censure and communal censure.
6.1.7 Individual censure takes place between two members of the church, according to the rule of Matthew 18:15, and remains only between the two. Each member of the Church is responsible for this censure, which is motivated by the love of the Lord.
6.1.8 Communal censure takes place according to the rule of Matthew 18:16. Each member of the Church must accept the responsibility to participate in this procedure at the request of a member.
6.1.9 Official censure is the responsibility of the local council which, in this function, is the representative of the Church, according to the rule of Matthew 18:17. The local council can become involved only after having verified that mutual censure has duly taken place, and after having made a serious investigation in a spirit of love for the individual in question and in a spirit of concern for the unity of the Church and for the honor of God. The purpose of any censure is always the repentance and spiritual healing of the member.
6.1.10 Official censure is done in two ways. These are repeated warnings by the local council, and the suspension of the right to participate in the Holy Supper.
6.1.11 Excommunication is the last step in ecclesiastical censure, according to the rule of Matthew 18:17. The local council can start the procedure of excommunication only after having informed the members of the parish, so that they can contribute to the repentance and spiritual healing of the member by praying unceasingly with love.
6.1.12 The local council is solely responsible for the excommunication of a member of the Church. When a parish has no local council, the evangelist must submit the case to the synod of the regional Church; this synod then sets up a provisional council which rules on the case.
6.1.13 In the case where no contact between the Church and the member is possible, the local council has the right to continue the procedure, but it must warn, by registered letter, the member in question of decisions taken before completing the procedure. If the letter is refused, the local council may complete the procedure, but it must keep the letter to prove that it did its best to warn the member.
6.1.14 Each member of the Church who undergoes ecclesiastical censure has the right to appeal to the next meeting of synod or to a later meeting. In the case of rejection by synod, one may only appeal again after a period of one year. The parish is responsible to inform the member of his rights of appeal.
6.1.14 When there is excommunication of a member, the local council must advise, in writing, the other voting delegates of synod, mentioning the name of the member and the date when the excommunication takes effect.
6.2 Ecclesiastical Censure of Elders and of Ministers of the Word
6.2.1 Spiritual discipline applies to elders and to ministers of the Word as to other members of the Church.
6.2.2 If a local councillor one of the members of the council find that there is reason to start the procedure of censure of an elder or of a minister of the Word, it must immediately advise the synod so that the synod can begin the necessary procedures for an examination of the case.
6.2.3 In the case of a doctrinal conflict, the discipline procedure of an elder or minister of the Word must be taken immediately to the level of the synod at the request of the local council.
6.2.4 The local council must announce the suspension of an elder or a minister of the Word in the meeting of the first Sunday following the meeting of synod during which the decision to suspend is taken. This announcement must indicate that the case in question was submitted to the synod of the Church.
6.2.5 A maximum delay of three weeks may occur between the request of the local council and the intervention of synod.
6.2.6 The procedure of censure of synod must finish by the reinstallation of the person in question or by the dismissal from his office. At the time of the dismissal of an elder or a minister of the Word, the local council must continue with the procedure for censure for normal members.
6.2.7 In the case of the discipline of an elder or a minister of the Word, the presence of all the elders and ministers of the Word of the synod is required. All decisions of this special assembly must have the approval of at least 75% of the voting delegates.
6.2.8 If the censure applies to an office bearer paid by the Church, he will receive his salary until the time of his dismissal, or for a longer period, if the synod decides this.
Prepared by Paulin Bedard, Quebec, November 18, 1993.
Translated by James Dykstra, Ottawa, August, 1994.
Updated by Bernard Westerveld, January, 2002.
Updated and corrected by Philippe deBlois, January 2003.